People are increasingly taking Uber instead of ambulances to get to the hospital, new research suggests. For a (non-peer-reviewed) research paper released Wednesday, economics professor David Slusky and Dr. Leon Moskatel looked at ambulance usage in 766 US cities upon the arrival of Uber from 2013 to 2015. Slusky tells the Mercury News that when Uber came to a city ambulance usage dropped "at least" 7% using the "most conservative" numbers. Moskatel says they expect it to increase to 10% to 15% "as Uber continues to expand as an alternative for people." Uber is not necessarily thrilled about this development. "Uber is not a substitute for law enforcement or medical professionals," spokesperson Andrew Hasbun says. "In the event of any medical emergency, we always encourage people to call 911."
But the researchers say Uber subbing for ambulances isn't always a bad thing. For people who aren't having a medical emergency, Uber is a much more cost-effective option than an ambulance. "We don’t all need to fly first-class all the time," Slusky says. It could also save insurance companies money to the point they might want to consider advocating for ride-sharing apps, Phys.org reports. And using an Uber instead of an ambulance would allow passengers to choose their hospital instead of being driven to the nearest one, according to Mashable. However, the president of the American College of Emergency Physicians says patients can't always be trusted to judge if their situation is an emergency or not. “A paramedic has the training and the ability to deliver life-saving care en route,” he tells the News. “Where I really have a hard time believing an Uber driver is going to attend to you.”